The History Of Education In Kurdistan


The reality of the social truths which have been made, is a subject that has been repeated over and over by social scientists. This construction is man-made. All of these constructions are called culture and consist of culture. One can innovate these social realities of life with education and declare them to future generations. So, via education, this innovation can be collected and changed into reality. We can say that this is development itself. This is like the dynamic of the development of education. Another thing, “Education is production that is done for the future.” This is the aim of all of this. 

Of course, in this time people must question the aim of education, why it is necessary, how do we observe the historical desires of education, etc. If we begin with scientific knowledge, we must start with the etymology of the word “education”. The word “education”, comes from the Latin word “Educere." The word “educere” was used for the raising and ownership of plants, animals, and children. All activities related to ownership and raising of these things fell under the subject of education. In Turkish, “education” (eğitim) was used for different activities. In Turkish, the roots of the word “education” comes from the verb “to bend” (eğmek). This means bending, learning, and putting things under one’s authority, oppression, breaking, and misdirection. During the Turkish participation in the history of hierarchical civilization, without thinking, education was understood as bending, breaking, learning, oppression, and control. In the Turkish language, education means to throw something under your control or enslave it. Today the phrase, “I taught him a lesson” is used to mean hitting or beating. This reality is derived from the mentality of education of the hierarchical and authoritarian civilization. In Arabic, “education” is used for very different activities. In Arabic, its counterpart is “tedreeb”. “Tedrib” has the same meaning as “rearing”. That is, education is nurturing. In Kurdish, education is called “perwerde”. The root of “perwerde” is derived from the verb “per-wer-kirin”, and has the same meaning as enlightening, beautifying, rearing, teaching, and educating. Its meaning is close to natural society. This meaning is closer to social reality. At that time, there were two etymological meanings for education. The first meaning was breaking, bending, teaching, oppression, control, and abandonment, and the other was understanding and learning. In society, the second meaning is the correct one. That is to say, it may be beneficial for the individual and the society at the same time. 

The foundational question here is, who is going to take care of society and the individual, give them understanding, rules, and education? How will we structure this? The answers to these questions show the quality of the education. In truth, the answer to this question will be clarified by the paradigm of international perspective. 

At the same time, the paradigm of the perspective of life will be similar to education. The aim of education should be the desire for freedom and should be just, otherwise it will be this bending, breaking, oppression, and control that means the progression of authoritarianism. According to democratic society, the aim of education is the arrival of information and the reality of life itself. According to authoritarian and hierarchical civilization, education is control. These differences in aims lead to differences in methods. 

After this general evaluation, if one looks at the history of education, one can see the traces of both methods. We must clarify this from the start: the history of education is as old as the history of humanity. Because of this, the history of education should begin with the history of humanity, and it is possible to see the existing positive and negative developments of the history of humanity in the history of education. If one can move forward, there are scientific findings and discoveries concerning animals in the era of education that show us our internal instincts. How the bird educates its young, how the honeybee makes honey for its young, how the beaver teaches its young to make a dam in the water, etc. teaches us. Among animals, this education is very quick. As human education is not as fast as this, the quality is different. Until a certain level, one educates themselves first according to their innate instincts, and then with their minds. The human being’s mind makes it different from other animals. But the mind is only a jewel, that is to say, it is potential. Unless this potential is put into practice, there will be no meaning or importance to it. The potential of the mind is only activated by means of education. This is only possible by means of investigation, criticism, and selection, and through finding and changing it.Humans can, as a result of a different type of evolution, be aware of, observe, and draw conclusions from the events and theories around them. Whatever they see, they must deal with and innovate it. By entering social life, they give importance to this situation. This situation simplifies their lives. With socialization, the shared mentality, i.e. that which is called culture, was achieved. The mother, who built this mentality of socialization, announced shared culture to future generations. This means that women were the first teachers. The mother did not make this announcement just for the new generations; she made it to prepare them for life. Every day there is a new problem, a new discover, and a new development. The repetitions of these problems, discoveries and developments could not be an answer. The aim of this declaration was not to learn by heart, i.e., not just to repeat information. They tried to educate themselves. It is written that in his lessons, a lecturer spoke to his students and said, “You will not learn any prepared thinking from me, you will learn how to think.”, The quote of the same nature, “Do not give someone a fish, teach them how to fish” comes from Kuan Tzu. In reality, this thought that shows the foundational aims of education, embodies the social lifestyle of the natural society. The roles of the mother, which became sacred through raising and educating future generations, were then brought into the temples. This was the function of the temples in natural society. The temples of this era were similar to schools. To clarify, we will repeat again: the aims of these temples was not just to provide information, but to prepare them for life. It was once said, “Schools which only give information must be closed.”

In civilization, dissemination of a class society influenced education. The authoritarian and hierarchical forces that wanted to control society used education as a tool; their existing phrases were forced upon other people.  Because they saw investigators, critics, and dissenters as a threat to themselves, they wanted to eliminate them. In their place, they built a system of memorization and repetition that would not question, not criticize, would accept the norms, and would not experiment with or examine life. In this way, people were separated from their thinking. This is a uniquely human situation; that which was given to people consisted only of what the upper classes gave them. If only the thinking of the upper classes is appropriate and valuable, the mind has no value. Those who stray from this path are punished. History is full of these documents. In this way, the rift in society affected the education. This continues until today. 

Controlling and oppressive forces always base their education on the second model. These authoritarian forces changed holy places like temples, which had played the role of schools which prepared society for life, into bureaucratic hierarchies. To say that our school system today has become a pyramid is not far from the truth. In spite of all of this, society did not abandon their attempts for proper education. 

The world’s first Sumerologist and writer of the book History Begins at Sumer Samuel Noah Kramer discusses the schools. The writing that was found on a tablet is as such, 

“I recited my tablet, ate my lunch, prepared my [new] tablet, wrote it, finished it; then they assigned me my oral work, and in the afternoon they assigned me my written work. When school was dismissed, I went home, entered the house, and found my father sitting there. I told my father of my written work, then recited my tablet to him, and my father was delighted…when I awoke early in the morning, I faced my mother and said to her: “Give me my lunch, I want to go to school.” My mother gave me two ‘rolls’ and I set out; my mother gave me two ‘rolls’ and I went to school. In school the monitor in charge said to me “Why are you late?” Afraid and with pounding heart, I entered before my teacher and made a respectful curtsy.”

Then he writes his observations and criticisms of the Sumerian education system. “Sumerian schools were far from appealing. Their programs were difficult, their educational method was frightening, and their discipline was merciless. If the students ran from their lessons at the first opportunity and left the “right” path, how can anyone be surprised? We can say that this is the first recorded instance of juvenile delinquency. 

One fact stands out: the Sumerian school had none of the character of what we would call progressive education. In the matter of discipline, there was no sparing of the rod. While teachers probably encouraged their students, by means of praise and commendation, to do good work, they depended primarily on the cane for correcting the students’ faults and inadequacies. The students did not have an easy time of it.”

Many aspects of this tablet which existed 5,000 years ago continue their existence. The author continues in later chapters of his book, 

"The original goal of the Sumerian school was what we would term "professional"—that is, it was first established for the purpose of training the scribes required to satisfy the economic and administrative demands of the land, primarily those of the temple and palace… 

Head of the Sumerian school was the ummia, "expert," "professor," who was also called "school father," while the pupil was called ''school son." The assistant professor was known as "big brother,'' and some of his duties were to write the new tablets for the pupils to copy, to examine the copies made by the pupils, and to hear them recite their studies from memory. Other members of the faculty were "the man in charge of drawing" and "the man in charge of Sumerian." There were also monitors in charge of attendance and "a man in charge of the whip," who was presumably responsible for discipline…. 

Not a single woman is listed as a scribe in these documents, and it is therefore likely that the student body of the Sumerian school consisted of males only."

The Sumerian education system - which ignored peoples' requests, skills and abilities and was programmed to serve only the desires and expectations of the dominant powers – has continued until today, with some stylistic changes. In the paradigm of this education, the development of people's abilities is not very important. Revealing the power of one's imagination is a subject that has become a joke. Differences are not accepted. The situation is tragicomic. The theories of Albert Einstein – who was thrown out of school on the pretext of intellectual disability – are now studied as educational material in schools. 

In the paradigm of the Sumerian education system, the school is based solely on the teachers' doctrines. The students have no serious role. The relationship with the students is such, "This is just how it is! Don't question the reasons or place for it!" They say that what the students are taught is absolute, that there is no need to question it, and that questioning it will lead them down the wrong path. In reality, they do this to make society easier to manage. Because people who ask questions are not easily managed. In this system based on memorization and repetition, there is no questioning or investigation; just blindly following things that are said. This system trains the obedient. This principle makes the work of the school and the teachers easier. A list of things to be memorized is distributed in the schools and students are made to memorize them; those who cannot memorize are punished. As a matter of fact, this is the foundational form of oppressive state policies. The authority imposes what is called the law, but is in reality the desires and interests of the authorities, on society. They want society to do their bidding. Those who do not obey are threatened or punished by the police and military. This is the easy way to manage them.

Greece and Rome utilized this principle. For example, in Greek and Roman schools, logic lessons were given. The aim of these lessons was not to develop the students' logic or to make their lives easier. Greeks schools were based on disciplining people by strengthening their muscles. Training a student of logic was viewed in the same way that an athlete strengthens and disciplines his muscles by training his body; i.e. to strengthen and discipline the mind. 

This education system was taken and used in all religions. According to them, the gods have the best way of thinking and announced this way via the prophets. The prophets used their books to announce this to the people and the community. Any thought besides this was sin, hypocrisy, and heresy, and its adherents would burn in hell. Actually, al-Ghazali's closure of any further interpretation came from this tradition. If humans take their thought from the words of God and the prophets, this is good. If they don't take heed of the words of God and the prophet, their thought is wrong and questionable. The best path to proper knowledge of Kurdish in the 12th century was memorization. Those who memorize the best, are the best people. These circumstances halted progress, thought and investigation, and intensified dogmatism. 
In spite of all the attempts to overcome the dogmatic approach during the Renaissance, the bourgeois, who quickly seized authority, imposed their propaganda on all educational systems like the schools and universities in order to ensure their continuity.  In this way, education became the most powerful weapon of the authorities. Education, which was integrated under the service of the nation state, was separated from conscience and morality. it became a system to advance their own interests. People were not educated for social progress; education was a way for them to produce more. That is, the criterion of education is no longer conscience and morality; it has turned into a matter of how much money you make. This is perhaps the biggest annihilation in history: the murder of education, in the name of education. J.J. Rousseau's quote, "…it matters little to me whether the pupil is intended for the Army the law or the church. Before his parents chose a calling for him, nature called him to be a man. Life is the trade I would teach him. When he leaves me, he would be neither a magistrate, a soldier, nor a priest, he will be a man." shows that he understood this danger. Aristotle's saying, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all", also stresses the importance of this. That is, education in civilized systems is memorization-based education that separates the mind and conscience from each other, advances its own interests, is pragmatic, and kills creativity by questioning and criticizing it.  That some countries are a few steps ahead of others in terms of education does not change this reality. 

The democratic society that resists statist and classist civilization desires to advance its own understanding of education. Because it remains under attack from the forces of statist and classist civilization, it continued on in secret, underground, or unreachable places. in this education, the foundational aim was to educate the heart and mind simultaneously and prepare people for society's future. In this sense, life itself is education. The Zoroastrian saying "good thoughts, good words, good deeds", taught in the fire temples, is the basic criterion for education in a democratic society. This education is an education that takes its shape according to the needs of society. Its source is the needs of life itself. But according to the educational mentality of statist and classist civilization, what you say and what you want is not important; only the desires of the oppressive masters are important. 

Democratic education is too broad to be reduced to a behavioral approach. Truly, the philosophy of democratic education should be relevant to every area of life. In these terms, it should make life simpler, more beautiful, and more meaningful. For this, it must be a way of thinking, questioning, criticizing, solving problems and being creative. In fact, it should reach the level of taking precautionary measures to avoid potential problems. An effective and industrious democratic system of education is one that has reached the level of understanding and evaluating people's difference. Otherwise, the democratic component of the education everyone receives is weak.

To decide what students should know and what kind of information to give in an education system is never democratic. The ruling powers decide these questions for themselves, and provide a list that they want teachers to use in schools. In these circumstances, students take on a very passive role. Actually, the authority aims to build a passive society. However, within the aims of the educational philosophy of a democratic society, this is not possible. Instead, there should be a system that overcomes the teacher-student relationship, has the teacher as a facilitator or assistant, and puts the student at the center of the education system. According to Socrates, teachers must play the role of an assistant. Teachers should give lessons not to make their students believe in something, but to awaken their minds. The commentary of Ocalan which goes, "in our academies, there is no student-teacher relation", embodies this completely. The development and strengthening of students is possible only through this system alone. It is not possible for students who simply listen to their teachers without asking questions to progress. Sheikh Bedredin says, "students who do not surpass their teachers have betrayed science."

It is possible to see this educational situation in the society and history of Kurdistan. In these regions – which was the center for the evolution of social life and foundation of the Neolithic age – education was given by head women to give meaning to life and prepare for life. Temples to mother goddesses and Ishtar are examples of this. But the occupation of Kurdistan by statist and classist forces changed this. The initial post-occupation change was militarization. They annexed these temples and removed their essence. Holy places of the mother goddesses were turned into places for their own ideology, and in this way imposed themselves on society. This destroyed society. To defend themselves against this, Kurds were forced to flee to the steepest, highest, and most inaccessible mountains. Only in these places could they continue their existence. In these places, fire evolved into a symbol of their belief. Zoroastrians called these holy places fire temples. In these temples in which the holy fires were lit and they played a role as a unifier, they acted as schools. Those who wanted to learn the Zoroastrian belief and become builders of the faith were educated there. In this education, everything, including God, was questioned. In a chapter of his defense The Sociology of Freedom, Ocalan says, "It is said that Zoroaster, in his beloved Zagros Mountains, heard a sound as the sun rose and shone with all its brightness. He cried out, 'Tell me, who are you?' This is explained as him having met and negotiated with God. For my part, I believe that they attempted to confront the existence of Sumerian god-king for thousands of years. The phrase "good thoughts, good deeds, good words" takes its foundations from this. After Arab attacks and invasions on Kurdistan began, Kurds fell into a struggle to defend their very existence. While the upper class Kurds denied their roots and became like the enemy, the people – which constitute the majority - usually fled to the highest and steepest mountains to defend themselves. Alevism continued its existence through Ezidism. Its institutions, like ocak, dergah, and tekke  continued. The Sufi traditions they developed were not just part of religious scholarship, but also part of the ethnic traditions of society. In this education, interest was in an individual's ethical characteristics, and they wanted individuals to become moral. The principle "Watch your hands, your tongue, and your back" came from this. In reality, this practice is a principle of "know thyself". 

Kurds, who have always been suspicious of official places run by authority figures, have received most of their education in the madrassa (Islamic school). The madrassa was a comprehensive education system. Madrassas, which began as centers for religious education, began to include many other subjects after the 950s and became complete education complexes. Many great Kurdish thinkers were raised in these educational institutions, which drew their foundations from literature written in coded language. Melaye Ciziri, Ehmede Xane, Mela Gorani, Cegerxwin and dozens of Kurdish intellectuals arrived in these places. In Kurdish madrassas, they ascended class, i.e. it was classless. It is critical to have a deeper understanding of the subjects being studied there. For this, they gained the power of reasoning. Unlike in other existing places, they did not learn by simple memorization. Although the madrassa played a negative role in terms of falling under the control of the Naqshbandi sect, they played an important role in continuing Kurdish existence. 

Education is the most critical thing for the continuation of society. Just as humans fulfill their biological needs by eating food, they can only fulfill their spiritual needs through education. In this sense, education is the fulfillment of the soul and spirituality. Although today there are many educational institutions and many people receive education and their material needs are fulfilled, this system is connected with spiritual emptiness and a hunger of the soul. A knowledgeable, but unscrupulous and soulless society is formed. Education is the most basic tool that builds this. Therefore, it is possible to create a principled, just and democratic society by way of developing an understanding of education that allows everyone to participate. Just as the criterion of democracy is people's participation, the criterion of democratic education is the participation of society.